Robinson Says Find the Bait for Clarks Hill Success

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

By Pete Robbins

Clarks Hill Lake in South Carolina has been a regular stop on the Big Bass Tour, but in recent years it’s been a springtime affair. In 2015 and 2016, the field attacked the lake at the end of March. In 2017, it was April. Last year, they came calling in May. This time around, though, they’ll descend upon the 71,000 acre impoundment at the end of October, and that’ll require a change in strategy. Veteran Palmetto State pro Marty Robinson said that while the plentiful blueback herring draw in quality bass, if you really want to find a monster, your best chance at this time of year is to seek out the “bluegill eaters.”

“I’d stay up the lake and up some of the creeks,” he advised. “Your best chances for a really big fish are in the stained water in the creeks.”

Historically, it has taken a fish between 7 and 8 pounds to earn top honors in Big Bass Tour competition on Clarks Hill, although in 2015 an 8.10 pound brute was the overall winner, and the lake is very healthy right now. In order to squeak into the top 10 you’ll always need something over 6, and it’s rare that a fish under 5 is the hourly top dog. Nevertheless, a solid strategy may allow slightly smaller bass to claim a few checks here and there, so careful planning and strategy can be remunerative. Pay attention to the updated leaderboard and time your runs to the weigh-in sites based on the information in front of you. Just don’t waste those low light hours when the fish are chewing.

“Start off with a Pop-R or a buzzbait early, and then switch to a mop jig and a Zoom Super Fluke later,” Robinson advised. “That Mag Super Fluke is my favorite and you can’t go wrong with pearl white.”

Early on he’d put the trolling motor down and cover water, targeting shallow flats where a lot of bluegill are hanging. “You don’t have to slow down. The active fish will be on the bank.” As the day goes on, though – particularly under flat and sunny conditions – he’d be more likely to make repeated casts to prime pieces of cover including laydowns, boat docks and riprap. “I key on shade a lot.”

Whether he’s using the mop jig or the buzzbait, his two key choices for bigger-than-average fish, he’d employ a Lew’s Custom Pro baitcasting reel with a 7:1 gear ratio. The former would use 30 pound test braid, while the latter would likely be on 17 pound test 100% fluorocarbon.

While he feels that bass feeding on bluegill have the greatest potential to take top honors, if he couldn’t get that bite going Robinson wouldn’t entirely rule out herring-chasers in the lower-third section of the reservoir. He’d pull out that same Mag Fluke, or perhaps the biggest walk-the-dog topwater in his boat, and try to weed through the numbers of schooling fish to find a true bruiser.

Most importantly, if he didn’t see the bluebacks, or big groups of sunfish, he’d abandon an area altogether.

“There is lots of dead water out there,” he concluded. Promise yourself that you won’t get stuck rotting in those areas. Instead, “be sure to practice and fish the tournament in areas with a lot of bait.”